Magick moments…

Although the spectre of Covid still lurks, the initial post-lockdown period has seen the opening up of live performances once again. On that basis, the 3-band line-up at Brixton’s Windmill this evening offers a catharsis of sorts, allowing people to capture something of a spirit that’s been missing for over a year.

The choice of acts for tonight’s performance comes courtesy of The Bechdel Sound Test and Sonic Tonic, two rising promoters who are keen to platform independent acts that they feel deserve wider exposure. It’s often the case that multi-band line-ups can be a mixed bag, but there’s something smart about the bands on offer tonight: each complementing the others in their own particular way.

Previously, London duo Naz & Ella caught our attention with their latest EP (DE)HUMANISE (see Wavegirl review previously), which the duo pitched as delivering a “moody and gritty direction while still retaining their raw and intimate sound”. Tonight provided an opportunity for the pair to showcase the EP’s songs in a live environment, where they were also bolstered by extra guitar work by friend-of-the-band Matt.

A touching ‘Internalised’ sees Naz taking up acoustic guitar, while Ella delivers moody rhythms on electric guitar. Meanwhile, ‘Exotica’ has a more muscular delivery in its live incarnation with a more solid feel to it, later opening into an effective harmonic vocal from the pair.

There’s a slow groove on ‘We Are The Enemy’, a composition whose lyrics explore a certain complicity in how cruelty towards animals is routinely justified. Post-song, Naz expresses concern that the song could be perceived as a more aggressive lecture to any meat-eating people in the audience (particularly with a blunt spoken-word segment), although the song could be said to present more of a discussion than a polemic.

Ella switches up to the acoustic for the gentle rhythms of ‘Flux’ (“A song about falling out of love”). Then, to switch things up, they deliver a cover that “needs no introduction” in the effective form of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’. The duo both switch to electric guitars for ‘No (Doesn’t Mean Convince Me)’, which is given an intro about the topic of the normalisation of sexual harassment that weirdly gets a whoop from a lone voice in the audience. “Yay, sexual harassment…” responds Naz. Despite the tough subject matter at hand, the song’s live delivery has a good bass-heavy feel to it and it takes on a bigger, broader scope here compared to the recorded version.

On then, to tonight’s second act on the bill. Hurtling features Jen Macro, Jon Clayton and Simon Kobayashi who are described as purveyors of “dream-gaze and blazing textures”. The trio pull in influences such as The Breeders, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, among others. There’s certainly a raw, fuzz guitar vibe to their material which is clearly a popular draw based on the packed front of stage (so much so, that this writer couldn’t get close enough for decent photos…).

Hurtling have built up a decent reputation based on their 2019 debut album Future From Here, particularly on the strength of tunes such as the energetic ‘Memory Cassette’ and the brooding dreampop of ‘E Flat One’. There’s a tight chemistry on stage with a nice contrast between the heavy guitar noise and Jen Macro’s lighter, often yearning vocals. As a band, Hurtling are certainly big on the noise guitar approach with big, dynamic numbers that have an almost physical impact.

By this stage, there’s a real sense of something building up in the audience with a keen sense of anticipation for Magick Mountain. It’s not tough to see why when the trio hit the stage with a combo of distorted guitars, beefy percussion and a visceral vocal delivery. Lins Wilson has a hypnotic presence on stage with her flame-red hair definitely making her stand out, while Tom Hudson (Pulled Apart By Horses) is all bass energy and attitude.

Magick Mountain’s 2020 album Weird Feelings provided a suitable showcase for their psychedelic, garage rock workouts, particularly on the back of solid numbers like ‘Infinity X2’ and the thumping, percussive ‘Cherokee’. That energy is given new form here on the stage of the Windmill, driven by Nestor Matthews’ primal drumming efforts.

Despite being a bit rusty (“Our first proper gig since 2019”), there’s little in the band’s performance to hint at uncertainty or lack of ability. There’s a beefy raw delivery to the songs being rolled out tonight, augmented with some nice vocal harmonies in the mix. There’s also some good banter between Wilson and Hudson on stage, particularly given Wilson’s clear ‘baby-on-board’ state!

One of the numbers has a distinct Joy Division feel in its intro. “We only played that song once and that was at practice two days ago…” But it sounds big and fully-formed despite this. The arc of Magick Mountain’s performance builds on that strong foundation and barely-restrained energy. It’s reflected in the audience, some of whom begin some unrestrained bopping away at the front of stage.

The end result of all this madness is three great performances from three great bands and an amazing atmosphere inside the tight constrains of the Windmill Brixton. Gigs are back – and we’re all keen for that state of affairs to continue.